Godiva – Hubris Review

Portuguese symphonic death metal outfit Godiva founded in 1999. Between that year and 2007, the fledgling band released a couple of demos and an EP, only to go on hiatus until their resurrection in 2018 with a revamped lineup and a new single, “Empty Coil.” Now, after 24 long years of toil underground, Godiva ready their first full-length LP, Hubris, in a rather saturated market for symphonic and gothic death metal. Bold move on their part, but how are they going to stand out amongst genre standbys like SepticFlesh and unsung heroes like Gorgon?

Godiva aren’t the kind of symphonic band that deal in the neoclassical noodlings of Fleshgod Apocalypse and similar fare. Rather, they choose a marching, cinematic approach more akin to the aforementioned SepticFleshGorgon, and Dimmu Borgir. Orchestrations largely follow the lead and rhythm guitars for direction, with some brass hits to accentuate the space in between. Gruffs roars and wretches prioritize comprehension over filth, leaving the listener with little guesswork to do and allowing them greater opportunity to succumb to Hubris’ simple, but effective hooks and infinitely shoutable choruses (“Godspell,” “The Meaning of Life”). While this revived troupe prefer to write straightforward songs that would rock a stadium to the ground with little impediment, they took great pains to include little details and embellishments at every opportunity. Nothing added is excessive, and everything added is intentional. As an aside, I’d like to extend my appreciation to Godiva for painstakingly selecting pleasing, rich tones for their orchestral elements—and mixing them well enough that they more closely resemble genuine instruments rather than canned samples, despite every likelihood that they are the latter in reality.

Hubris is best experienced as a whole record, despite the fact that it doesn’t tell a unified story as your typical concept album would. The reason for this is simple: Hubris is a thoroughly detailed, cohesive work. Even “Empty Coil,” a single plucked from five years in the past, feels like it belongs (though it certainly sounds far less mature compared to its album-mates). Complementing this sense of consistency, orchestrations dance and weave around death metal guitars as if the two were always natural partners, one never overshadowing the other in the spotlight (“Media God,” “Black Mirrors”). Enhancing the balance these two core elements of Godiva’s sound strike, each instrument plays off the contributions of the others instead of merely ghosting their footsteps, allowing my ear to discover new and engaging baubles with every revisit until, eventually, they all meld into a beautiful, lush tapestry (“The All Seeing Eye,” “Death of Icarus,” “Dawn”).

As a tradeoff for writing well-conceived songs that bring complete cohesion to the record, there are very few individual moments that stand out. The one-two punch of “Dawn” and “Death of Icarus” are probably the strongest selections offered, with big riffs, big leads, and even bigger hooks littered all over the place. However, Hubris is surprisingly light on unforgettable melodies, captivating messages, or exciting riffs anywhere else, evidenced in part by the dull chugs kicking off “Black Mirrors,” the lackluster march of “Empty Coil,” and the cheesy “The Meaning of Life.” Additionally, so much of this record sounds deeply rooted in the stylings of Kamelot-but-death-metal or Dimmu Borgir-but-slower. It robs Hubris of a lot of its intended impact as several of its tunes instantly recall songs like “Gateways” or “March of Mephisto,” both of which precede this material by at least a decade, and are superior songs in their own right to begin with.

Regardless, I think Godiva can carve their niche in the symphonic death metal pantheon with the formula that they have today. Right now, the majority portion of their output lacks the strength to stand out amongst the works of much more established and celebrated acts. However, Godiva aren’t copying and pasting their influences as much as they are struggling to break away from them. With more time writing fresh material, I feel confident that the recently disinterred quintet can secure a unique voice, using Hubris as the sound foundation that it is. As long as they live up to that expectation, I see a bright future ahead for Godiva.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: godivaofficial.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/godivaofficial
Releases Worldwide: February 3rd, 2023

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